Footprints of the Pioneers


Chapter 8—The Day Dawn

Hiram Edson

IT WAS the morning of October 23, 1844. A gray dawn for thousands and ten thousands of the followers of William Miller, who had confidently looked for the Lord to come on the tenth day of the seventh month, October 22. They had closed their earthly businesses; they had sought to set their hearts right with God and with their fellow men; they had taken farewell of earth. This day they hoped to be in glory. FOPI 72.2

The twenty-second had dawned a day of hope on a little company in the town of Port Gibson, New York, on the Erie Canal. Hiram Edson, a farmer and lay preacher, was their leader. Although sometimes their meetings had been held in a schoolhouse up the canal, often, as on this day, they congregated at Edson’s farmhouse, a mile south of town. FOPI 72.3

Through the bright shining day, until the sun went down, they watched and waited, strengthening one another in hope with a recital of the promises and the prophecies. Then with quaking hearts they watched on till midnight. The day was gone, and in apprehension they waited for the dawn. It came with clouds, but not the clouds of glory surrounding the King; they were the old drab wrappings of a desolate earth. FOPI 72.4

“What can it mean?” They looked into one another’s anguished faces. “Is our Savior not coming? Are the prophecies false? Is the Bible untrue? Is there no God?” FOPI 72.5

“Not so, brethren,” said Hiram Edson. “Many, many times the Lord has sent us help and light when we needed it. There is a God, and He will hear us.” FOPI 75.1

Most of the friends left with the dawn, and went back to their homes. But Edson and the few remaining went, at his suggestion, out to his barn, and entering the empty granary, they shut the door and knelt to pray. They prayed until comfort came to their hearts, and assurance that in His good time Christ would explain to them their disappointment. FOPI 75.2

One brother remained to breakfast; perhaps it was Owen Crozier. After breakfast Edson said to him, “Let us go out to comfort the brethren with the assurance we have received.” FOPI 75.3

So they started, not by the road, but across the field, not wishing, I suppose, to meet any of the neighbors, who might taunt them. The field was a cornfield, in which the corn had been cut, and stood in shocks. The two men went silently, each engrossed in his own thoughts. FOPI 75.4

As they neared the middle of the field, Edson felt as it were a hand upon his shoulder, stopping him; and looking up, he saw, as in a vision, the sanctuary in heaven, and Jesus, on that day which ended the 2300 years of the prophecy, leaving the holy place and entering into the most holy, for the “cleansing of the sanctuary.” FOPI 75.5

His friend had crossed to the other side, and, stopped by the fence, he looked back and saw Edson with face uplifted, looking and listening. “Brother Edson,” he called, “what are you stopping for?” And Edson replied, “He is answering our morning prayer.” 39 FOPI 75.6

It was therefore with quickening pulses, a hundred years later, that we drove along the canal to the little town of Port Gibson, and stopped to find what we could. The Erie Canal, first opened in 1825, stretches between Buffalo and Lake Erie on the west, to Albany and the Hudson River on the cast. From its first modest proportions, which sufficed for the small shallow-draft canal boats of the time, it has twice been enlarged, deepened, and broadened, in some places its course being changed. FOPI 75.7

The old canal, where it passed Port Gibson in Edson’s day, is now abandoned, being only a ditch, in places deep, in others completely filled. On the towpath of that day now runs the wide cement highway, between the old ditch and the new canal, which at this place fills the broad lowlands, forming a lake about three miles long, known as The Widewaters. FOPI 76.1

The little town, now containing about three hundred inhabitants, two general stores, a post office, and a pleasant residence street or two, rises rather steeply from the canal and the main road. Long ago, in the early days before any railroad was built, Port Gibson was the main shipping point for grain and other produce from all the country, beginning at the Finger Lakes below and extending to the St. Lawrence; and even in the 40’s there was much traffic. A deep ravine, with a small stream fed by springs, lies on the east side of the town, connecting with the old ditch, and here the water backed up to form The Basin. FOPI 76.2

There were three types of canal boat in those days, all mule drawn: the first was the freight boat, varying in size, and carrying all the way from twenty-five to a hundred tons of freight; the second was the line boat, which carried both freight and passengers, but with comparatively poor accommodations for the latter; the third was the packet, devoted wholly to passengers, with provision for both eating and sleeping. Naturally the packet moved the most swiftly. When the packet overtook a line boat, the towline of the latter was dropped, allowing the packet to speed by, and then the line boat picked up its rope again. FOPI 76.3

You will catch an interesting exchange between the two if you read a passage in Life Sketches. 40 It was in the very early times of the message, 1848, and Joseph Bates and James and Ellen White were holding their first meetings in New York. They had just concluded a meeting in Hiram Edson’s barn at Port Gibson, and started for New York City via the canal. Being too late for one packet, they took a line boat here, and when the next packet came along, they prepared to transfer to it. But the packet did not stop, so they jumped aboard. Elder Bates was not going with them, but he had their fare, which he held out to the captain, who failed to take it. Seeing the boat moving off, Bates jumped for it, but his foot struck the rail, and he fell back into the canal. With his pocketbook in one hand and a dollar bill in the other, he began swimming. His hat fell off, and in grasping for that he lost his dollar bill, but kept his pocketbook. Then the packet stopped and took him on board. This wetting in the dirty water of the canal changed their plans for the rest of the trip. Well, read it. FOPI 76.4

Making inquiry here, we gathered bits of information. The most came from Mrs. W. F. Garlock, a lady eighty years old and the unofficial historian of the town. But neither she nor anyone else knew of Hiram Edson. She thought he must have lived on the south road, which is the only one going out of town, except the main highway along the canal. FOPI 77.1

As Loughborough also says that Hiram Edson lived one mile south of the town, we went to seek out the place. Exactly one mile south we found what is called the Stacey Place, from the name of a former owner, though it has since come through two hands. It is an ancient-looking house, and local report gives it a life of over a hundred years. I investigated the land records in Canandaigua, which yielded the information that Hiram Edson and wife, in 1835, bought of Jacob Cost and wife, for $750, a fifty-six-acre tract of land, which they sold on April 9, 1850, to Warren Hyde for $2,200. This is the transaction to which Loughborough refers when he says Edson sold his farm to put money into the cause. Out of this Edson gave his gift and provided a further loan to purchase the first press, in April, 1852. The increase between his purchase price and his selling price indicates that probably he built the house. FOPI 77.2

However, the best efforts of several clerks in the county clerk’s office, with descriptions and maps, failed to determine definitely the location of this farm; therefore I could not thereby identify it as the Staccy Place. But, besides the coincidence of its location with the directions, there is another corroborative fact. In the Review and Herald files is a photograph (photographer unknown) of what is labeled, “Hiram Edson’s barn.” This photograph corresponds to an old barn on this place, which an aged neighbor said was also over a hundred years old-and it looked it! It now has a new metal roof, its tottering supports have been braced, and its ancient sides are patched. It was filled with farm machinery and odds and ends. There is good reason to believe that this is the barn in which Bates and the Whites, with Edson, held the first conference in Western New York, in 1848. And that would establish the house as being Hiram Edson’s. Therefore, with considerable emotion, I reconstructed in my mind the scene on that memorable morning of ‘ ‘October 23, 1844’, with this house and this barn and yonder cornfield the stage. FOPI 78.1

Edson moved to Oswego, and then to Port Byron. Apparently he purchased a farm there; for Loughborough says he sold this for $3,500 in 1852, and advanced the money for the first press. 41 FOPI 79.1

Loughborough, writing seventy-five years later, has an account that differs in some particulars from Edson’s own. Elder Loughborough had a remarkable memory, and he kept diaries; he says he got this information direct from Hiram Edson. Edson wrote his manuscript in which occurs this account some years after his experience. Naturally I lean to Edson’s own account, but there is the possibility that Loughborough was right. FOPI 79.2

He says that the meeting in Port Gibson on October 22, 1844, was not in Hiram Edson’s house, but in the schoolhouse up the canal, that is, west; that Edson and O. R. L. Crozier left the schoolhouse last of all on the morning of the 23rd, and, fearful of going through the village, struck across fields toward Edson’s house. He says that the vision in the cornfield occurred on this trip, while the prayer in the granary was on a later occasion. 42 O. R. L. Crozier, when an old man, is reported to have said that early on the morning of October 23, 1844, he was on horseback, carrying to the brethren the good news that “the sanctuary is in heaven.” 43 This could agree with either account. And I incline to Edson’s. FOPI 79.3

After this experience Edson and a friend, Dr. F. B. Hahn, along with Crozier (a younger man, and their protégé), began in earnest to study out the Scripture proof of Edson’s revelation. In a few months they felt they were ready. Edson and Hahn, before the Disappointment, had published a little paper in Canandaigua called The Day Dawn, which heralded the coming. Now Edson said to Hahn, “Let us get out another number of The Day Dawn, and publish this truth.” Hahn, who lived at Canandaigua, agreed, and he was named the publisher. Crozier, who had a facile pen, wrote the exposition, which was published in The Day Dawn. To help pay for the edition, Mrs. Edson sold a part of her silverware. 44 FOPI 80.1

The resurrected Day Dawn was published about five months after the Disappointment, in March or April, 1845. 45 Editor Enoch Jacobs, of The Day-Star, a Second Advent paper published in Cincinnati, then invited Crozier to write a full exposition, which he published in an Extra of The Day-Star, under date of February 7, 1846. The Day-Star, being then a well established paper, with a stable circulation, gave a wider publicity to the subject; but it was the little Day Dawn of Canandaigua that started it, nearly a year before. The common version of the story among us has been that Crozier’s exposition of the sanctuary question was not published until 1846; and that is mixed up with the, belief, earlier held, that it first appeared in The Day-Star. It had always been a mystery to me why Edson, Hahn, and Crozier required fifteen months to produce this. The discovery of the earlier date of publication of The Day Dawn solves the problem. FOPI 81.1

Edson meanwhile had sent The Day Dawn to as many addresses as he could gather. One of these copies reached Joseph Bates; another, James White. At that time, in the spring of 1845, Bates had just accepted the seventh-day Sabbath, but White had not. They both, however, were interested in the new doctrine of the sanctuary, and at Edson’s invitation planned to attend a meeting at his place. James White was unable to go, but Joseph Bates made the journey and met the Port Gibson company. The exact date of this meeting is not known, but it was probably in the fall of 1845. FOPI 81.2

When Bates came he listened to the exposition of the sanctuary truth from Edson and Crozier, and accepted it. Then he said, “Now I have another message for you.” And forthwith he presented to them the seventh-day Sabbath. Edson joyfully accepted it; for he had already been thinking along that line. But Crozier said, “Better go slowly, brethren, better go slowly. Don’t step on new planks until you know they will hold you up.” FOPI 82.1

“I have been studying the question for a long time,” answered Edson, “I have put my weight upon it, and I know it will hold us up.” 46 FOPI 82.2

All three-Edson, Hahn, and Crozier-accepted the Sabbath; but Crozier kept it for only a year or two; then he turned against it and became a most vigorous opponent. Nevertheless, the truth went forward. James and Ellen White accepted the Sabbath in the fall of 1846. They had even before that received the sanctuary truth. And thus was formed the nucleus of the company that within a few years became known as Seventh-day Adventists. The little Day Dawn, in its very name, was prophetic. FOPI 82.3